How to Lose Friends and Alienate People | Toby Young | Reviewed by Francesca

Friday, 1 February 2013

'It was journalism at its best: irreverent, mischievous and beholden to no one.'- Toby Young.

British journalist Toby Young is leaving behind his (nearly) successful career in London to head for greener pastures, namely a position as 'contributing editor' at Vanity Fair in New York, and finds the world seemingly settled at his feet. However, in the space of two years in 'the city that never sleeps', Toby's managed to get fired from his position, is desperately single, and faces the prospect of potentially having to call time on his dreams of making it in the US and moving back to London. 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People' is an autobiographical story which explains exactly how, in two years, everything could go so wrong for an ageing British writer, and details everything about his life in New York; how he got there, the ins and outs of life at Vanity Fair, and how he manages to somehow screw it all up.

I have to admit, I've never seen the silver-screen adaptation of this book, but, having had one-too-many of my friends rave about it, my interest was peaked, and I decided to grab a copy of the book before diving into the film (I never, ever watch the film before reading the book if I intend to read it at a later date). I have to say, I was sorely disappointed. I don't know what I was expecting, but given that the movie version is accredited with being a 'laugh out loud' kind of comedy, I was certainly expecting something. In the end, I was stuck with a whiney overgrown college 'frat boy' as a narrator, who spent the first half of the book complaining about the British newspaper industry, and the second half bemoaning how shallow the US is, in comparison.
Instead of being able to relate to my narrator, empathize with him in times of trouble or misfortune, I found myself loathing him; counting down the pages I had left to read with anticipation, and, on one night, falling asleep with the book on my face (something I have never done).
Now, as an autobiographical text, none of these things are really Toby Young's fault - and I'm sure he wouldn't care either way if I'm not his number one fan, but there's something about 'How to...' that really grated on me; along the way, if you manage to squint through the complaints, the unnecessary tangents that seem present if only to prove how well-educated Young is, there are attempts at wit. Unfortunately, these attempts come across as mean-spirited observations and hyperbole about the two cultures present in the book, and the result is that our narrator comes across as a bitter British journalist who couldn't quite make his 'big break' in America.

Overall, 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People' left me completely cold, and totally disappointed.


1/5 stars
(very nearly zero!)

This review was written by regular reviewer Francesca, get to know her here.
Photo © Francesca Sophia.
 

1 comment :

  1. I haven't read it but I definitely wouldn't recommend the film! x

    ReplyDelete